Designation of the Kol Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial As A National Memorial

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 19, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. BROWN of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Grijalva for his leadership and for yielding to me.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 7618, a bipartisan bill to recognize the Kol Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial as a national memorial.

H.R. 7618 was unanimously voted out of the House Natural Resources Committee on July 20, 2022, and its bipartisan Senate companion, S. 4121, led by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, favorably passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on July 21, 2022.

Mr. Speaker, this bill recognizes and honors a memorial in my district with a remarkable history. In 1961, surviving victims of the Holocaust erected the Kol Israel Memorial, dedicating it to the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi regime, its allies, and collaborators.

From 1939 to 1945, the Holocaust touched all corners of Jewish life from east to west, from Africa to Northern Europe. Thriving Jewish life in mainland Europe was decimated. The genocide wiped out entire Jewish communities, villages, and towns in a campaign that Nazis carried out with ruthless precision. They did so with mass shootings, concentration camps, and death camps like none the world had ever seen.

The trauma, pain, and suffering inflicted on the Jewish community were not confined to their side of the Atlantic. Many members of our American Jewish community were touched by profound loss, and survivors found refuge in many communities across the United States.

One such group of survivors made its way to northeast Ohio, putting down roots in Bedford Heights, a thriving part of Ohio's 11th Congressional District. They never forgot the horrors of the past and began planning a memorial to the 6 million as early as 1959, only 14 years after the end of the Second World War.

Since the memorial's dedication on May 28, 1961, survivors and their families have continuously cared for what is likely the oldest memorial of its kind in the United States.

On the memorial's exterior walls, the survivors engraved the names of their family members and loved ones. At the foot of the monument, the survivors also buried firsthand artifacts and keepsakes and ashes of victims from three concentration camps.

Given its historical significance, the Kol Israel Memorial deserves to be recognized by Congress. Designating the site as a national memorial ensures that future generations understand the true legacy of a very dark chapter in history.

This legislation comes at no cost to taxpayers and does not establish the memorial as a unit of the National Park Service. The Kol Israel Foundation will retain oversight and responsibility for the memorial, as it has for six decades.

Members of the Ohio community, including Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio General Assembly, and prominent local and national stakeholders, have all supported efforts to recognize the Kol Israel Memorial.

The bill also enjoys wide support from a coalition of organizations such as the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee.

I thank all the cosponsors of this legislation, including our seven co-leads from both sides of the aisle: Representatives Kaptur, Ryan, Beatty, Joyce, Balderson, Gonzalez, and Carey. They, too, have a deep understanding of the importance of the Kol Israel Memorial and this legislation, particularly at a time of rising anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world.

Let me take one moment, Mr. Speaker, to speak about the dangers of Holocaust denial and distortion. Last night on ``60 Minutes,'' we watched in shock and disgust as the President of Iran denied the existence of the Holocaust and pretended to seek more information on its veracity.

Today, let us all speak in a loud and clear voice: The Holocaust happened. It was devastating. We must work every day to remember so that we may honestly say ``never again.''

I am honored to represent one of the country's most celebrated Jewish communities, which happens to reside in Ohio's 11th Congressional District. Now is our opportunity to honor the victims of the Holocaust who call this country home and remember their bravery, dedication, and everlasting legacy.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my House colleagues for taking swift action on H.R. 7618 so we may send a strong signal of support for our Jewish community.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this critical legislation.